Saturday, November 15, 2008

Can't Get Enough Dirtbombs? Have You Tried Ko?

Ko & The Knockouts

Wicked Cool Records

I know, I know. Four full length releases, a double CD of covers, rarities, outtakes, plus a whole lotta vinyl, limited release singles, concert-only merch and you just can't get enough of The Dirtbombs. The economy and yours personally is in the crapper, too. Right? Of course, if you really are that into The Dirtbombs, then you probably have the self titled debut from their ever awesome fuzzy bass woman and her band, Ko & The Knockouts since it was originally released in 2002 on Sympathy For The Record Industry. If not, the kids at Wicked Cool Records reissued it a while back and since nobody gets talked about unless they got a new thing out, I'm going to change that, especially since we're approaching the end of the year and I"ve got a lot of choice stuff that people sent me that I'm going to write about in time for you to expand your CD collection. After all, you can invest in CDs and beer and it's a better return than one of those 401K thingies right now.

Ko is just cool. She rocks, she plays a fuzzy bass in The Dirtbombs. She plays a regular one, too. But a girl's gotta work and Ko & The Knockouts ain't goin' anywhere while Mick Collins is dragging her and the rest of his sweaty band all over creation for a good part of the year wowing us all with some serious rock 'n' roll, but most other members of The Dirtbombs past and present either play in other bands some of the time, so you might see a review sometime of a long past release by other Detroit rockers such as The Come Ons or you might not, but good rock 'n' roll is there to be discovered and rediscovered, ain't it?

It's a little surprising on a few levels. If you haven't noticed, Ko is this sweaty but super cool rocker who plays so loud that she can definitely match up on the fuzz register, but the album is pretty clean. Loud, but clean. Powerpop clean, one could say. British Invasion inspired? Maybe, but still Detroit. Songs like "Cry No More" are catchy, fast, and fun. Others like "Wasted All Those Years" sounds like Diana Ross and The Supremes backing up really early Who with frantic guitar and drums in tact. Another good pick with a more 'shakin' rhythm is "You're On My Mind." If you like punchy guitar chords and singing along, this album's for you. It's not without its surprises. "You Did It" is a swaying lament with more of an r & b feel, for example.

What's really impressive is that Ko packs a powerful voice that's always smooth and has an amazing range. The quickness, timing and simplicity of the songs on Ko & The Knockouts can really hit the heart of a Ramones fan, although with so few chords, the same progression of many of them are in hundreds of songs from others, so much like The Ramones remind one of all their influences, songs like "If I" with its handclaps and harmonies channel "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" and "Do You Wanna Dance?" at the same time. "I Really Hate You" could probably be remade as a twangy country hit based on its lyrics alone, but the song is more of a stomping, hootenany beat. Good stuff. We even get some good distortion on "I Wanna (See You Again)."

If it hasn't been emphasized by Mick himself enough, the whole 'garage' thing is an ethos instead of a genre. Likewise, Ko & The Knockouts are also NOT garage rock: It's rock 'n' roll. Detroit Rock 'n' Roll. Motown, some blues, r & b, guitars that buzz, churn, and occasionally sputter like the town's namesake "The Motor City," but like all good rock 'n' roll, it's the beat. Yes, rock 'n' roll is meant to be danced to. In fact, "Twistin' Postman" will force you to move. If that doesn't get you moving, nothing else will. Besides, Jim Diamond produced and played on it. That alone is enough encouragement.

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